An Interview with NDFP Chief Negotiator Luis Jalandoni, member of the NDFP National Executive Committee, by Juan Escandor, Jr., on April 26.*
Juan Escandor (JE): Maria Ceres Doyo described “Kampanyang Ahos” as like a crime of incest in which members of a family would rather not discuss and she also likened the weakness in a system that feeds on its own children. Do you subscribe to this analogy?
Luis Jalandoni (LJ): The presumptions of the analogy are wrong. The genuine leaders and members of the (Communist) Party prevailed over the masterminds and perpetrators of “Kampanyang Ahos” and decided to launch the rectification movement in order to expose, criticize and repudiate “Kampanyang Ahos” from l992 onwards. The highly-placed masterminds and perpetrators of “Kampanyang Ahos” blocked the exposure and condemnation of the crime from l985 onwards. The imperialists, anti-communist petty bourgeois grouplets, anti-communist columnists like Ceres Doyo and Trotskyites joined up with the biggest criminal suspects in “Kampanyang Ahos” (Benjamin de Vera, Ricardo Reyes, Frank Gonzales, Nathan Quimpo, etc.) to oppose the rectification movement. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is good and healthy by rectifying errors and denouncing the crime. It is unfair to presume that communists by their nature eat each other or eat their own. Nothing of the sort has been said of the Christians just because of the bloody witchhunts, inquisitions, colonial wars, feudal and capitalist systems of exploitation and imperialist wars done by Christian countries. The CPP is good and healthy precisely by rooting out the causes of “Kampanyang Ahos” through the rectification movement and identifying the criminal suspects.
Ceres Doyo’s analogy of “the revolution devouring its own children” is not original. It is a worn-out phrase used by reactionaries who are deadly opposed to societal change to frighten people from the revolution. This worn-out phrase is also a favorite of opportunists who make it their business of taking a swipe at the revolution whenever they have the chance but appropriate the term “revolutionary” when it suits them like the “instant revolutionaries” who rode on the success of the EDSA uprising.
JA: Why did the NDF keep the bloody purge secret from the public since 1990, after the ten-year summing-up?
LJ: The NDFP did not keep “Kampanyang Ahos” a secret. It let the CPP over time to exercise its competence and jurisdiction over “Kampanyang Ahos” as a subject of the rectification movement, before the crime could be submitted to the people’s courts against specific suspects. As already pointed out, even within the CPP there had to be an internal struggle in order to defeat the criminal suspects who were blocking the appropriate Party and people’s governmental action on the crime. By the way, the facile reference to “Kampanyang Ahos” as a “bloody purge” unfairly insinuates that it was some kind of cleansing process duly approved by the entire CPP. That is not true.
JE: In a protracted guerilla war like what the CPP-NDF wages, the balance of forces is a major consideration before any information could be made public especially that interpreting sensitive information out of context could inflict damage to the whole revolutionary movement. Was this the reason why the CPP-NDF kept mum on the bloody purge?
LJ: Within the CPP, the genuine communists were clamoring from l986 onwards for the proper investigation of “Kampanyang Ahos” but the highly-placed criminal suspects kept on declaring it as a revolutionary success. There was no simple case of the CPP concealing the crime as a matter of tactics or out of fear of any interpretation. The book of Jose Maria Sison, The Philippine Revolution: The Leader’s View, exposed the crime publicly as early as 1988. But the press and military either conceal or are ignorant of this fact.
JE: In actual figures, is the revolutionary movement ready to publicly divulge, how many were estimated killed, tortured, if only to show their openness and trust to the masses?
LJ: The summary figures are contained in the basic rectification documents of the CPP Central Committee since l992. About 1,500 Party cadres and members, mass activists and allies were arbitrarily arrested, humiliated and tortured. Hundreds of them were murdered. The masterminds and perpetrators were in essence not communists but anti-communists. In fact, most of them are now openly serving the reactionary state.
JE: Has the relative period of silence of the revolutionary movement about the bloody purges [been] intended until the Philippine military and the media started to bring forth the issue to the public?
JA: The late NDF leader, Antonio Zumel, a member of the Central Committee of the CPP, stated that in 1986 families of victims of “Kampanyang Ahos” approached him requesting information on their relatives. The good CPP cadres and members pushed for the exposure of “Kampanyang Ahos” since 1986. But the masterminds and perpetrators blocked such exposure. Ka Tony Zumel once narrated that at an expanded CPP Political Bureau meeting in December 1986, a letter from a member of the Central Committee demanding an answer as to who were responsible for “Kampanyang Ahos” was presented. Benjamin de Vera, Secretary of the CPP Mindanao Commission, and member of the CPP Executive Committee, quickly answered: “Bakit, may pananagutan ba ako diyan? [Why, do I have any responsibility for that?]” and Ricardo Reyes, Deputy Secretary of the CPP Mindanao Commission, who uses the pseudonym “Paco Arguellers”, casually answered: “Pinag-iisipan ko pa, kung ako ay may pananagutan diyan.” [I am still considering, if I have any responsibility for that] Both were washing their hands of any responsibility for “Kampanyang Ahos.” Yet, both were informed of the disastrous policy decisions taken by the so-called Caretaker Committee of the CPP Mindanao Commission in July 1985. They approved these policies which allowed torture of suspected “deep penetration agents” (DPAs). When the good CPP cadres and members prevailed over the masterminds and perpetrators of “Kampanyang Ahos,” the CPP Central Committee came out in the most public manner to condemn and act on the crime from 1992 onwards.
JE: What could be the effect, in terms of public acceptance and popularization of revolutionary means to achieve societal change, with the public disclosure from former fulltime underground members and Philippine military of the bloody purges while the revolutionary forces react?
LJ: The CPP was the very first one to expose and condemn “Kampanyang Ahos” and other bloody witchhunts perpetrated by criminal renegades. What the reactionary military authorities and some of the anti-communist journalists have done is to confuse the facts and the issue. They vilify the CPP and protect the masterminds and perpetrators of Kampanyang Ahos.
Gravest tactical error
JE: The CPP-NDF has recognized the purge as one of the most damaging results of the gravest tactical error ever in the history of struggle of the national democratic revolutionary movement.
LJ: “Kampanyang Ahos” was a gigantic anti-communist and anti-people crime, not just a tactical error and not even merely an ideological-political-organizational matter internal to the Party. “Kampanyang Ahos” was not a “bloody purge”. It was a bloody crime committed by the likes of Benjamin de Vera, Ricardo Reyes and Nathan Quimpo, who erroneously ascribed the setbacks being suffered then by the revolutionary movement in Mindanao to enemy infiltration rather than to the militarist line they were pursuing.
Because of their purely militarist line, they did not pay attention to mass work, land reform, and other programs that benefit the masses such as literacy and numeracy, health and sanitation, promoting sideline occupations, etc. Because of this, they had alienated the masses and lost their support. Their putschist line in the cities led them to carry out indiscriminate killings in Davao City and other urban centers which gave the reactionaries the justification to form right-wing paramilitary groups such as the Alsa Masa. Because of the loss of mass support, the New People’s Army was suffering many casualties in battles. The Alsa Masa was also able to wreak havoc on the mass organizations in the cities and in the countryside.
But instead of recognizing that it was their militarist line that was the cause of these setbacks, they attributed these to supposed “deep penetration agents” or DPAs. “Kampanyang Ahos” was carried out supposedly to get rid of enemy infiltrators. Instead it victimized many good comrades, allies and members of the revolutionary mass organizations.
Their petty-bourgeois subjectivist wish for a “speedy victory” and aversion to painstaking work and bearing the necessary sacrifices in the struggle led them to play around with “left” revolutionism.
JE: Was there a comprehensive investigation on individuals who were directly involved in the torture, murder and other violations of the rights of suspected deep penetrating agents among the revolutionaries?
LJ: Yes, of course.
JE: How far was the investigation?
LJ: As far as possible. The highly placed criminal suspects protected each other up to 1991. After 1991, the biggest criminal suspects were already openly anti-CPP. Many of the suspects escaped the justice system of the movement by joining the reactionary government.
JE: What were the results and decisions?
LJ: The results and decisions depended on the evidence, the gravity of the offense and the remorse of the accused as a mitigating circumstance.
JE: Were those found guilty of criminal acts punished or have been issued outstanding orders for their arrest or made to answer for the civil and criminal liabilities they owe to the masses and society?
LJ: Those that could be tried were tried. Those found guilty were meted out the punishment commensurate to the crime. Their criminal and civil liabilities were taken into account. There are outstanding arrest orders for those suspects who have so far eluded arrest.
JE: Were the families of the victims given justice?
LJ: Yes, as far as possible. Basically by bringing the culprits to justice.
JE: And in what form, means or ways has the revolutionary movement, at least, paid back to the families of the victims of the bloody purges?
LJ: As far as possible, indemnification has been given to families of the victims. As most of the families belong to the revolutionary mass movement, they get satisfaction from the revolutionary and social achievements of the revolution, like land reform, higher production, health program, etc. They continue to be involved in the revolutionary movement.
Caricaturing the local revolutionary movement
JE: The Pol Pot regime has been accused of murdering thousands of its citizens and the general ideological bases of their struggle were similar with the national democratic revolutionary movement in the Philippines. What could be the reason why the mass killings, like that of the Pol Pot Regime and the bloody purges in the revolutionary movement here, have to happen, even as the two groups were definitely different in contexts?
LJ: You must interview the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge, so they can tell you how well they fought against the enemies of the Cambodian people and how complicated was a situation in which there were as many as three armies supposedly in alliance. The NDFP does not agree with superficially and sweepingly caricaturing and making the Philippine revolutionary movement the same as any of the caricature of another revolutionary movement abroad. This would be as ridiculous as denying the progressive character of the French bourgeois democratic revolution just because of the French Terror or blaming all Christians for the millions or tens of millions of people killed in the witchhunts and inquisitions under the Roman Catholic Church, in the colonial wars of conquest and global imperialist wars done by states professing themselves as Christians.
JE: The Rectification Movement of the national democratic revolutionary movement in the Philippines was a means to learn lessons, rectify errors and deepen the ideological foundation of revolutionaries. How far has the revolutionary movement achieved its goal?
LJ: The rectification movement was mainly a campaign of education and the return to the correct revolutionary path. It has been a resounding success. It has been embraced by the masses and has led to the consolidation and expansion of the revolutionary movement. The basic documents of the rectification movement (Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Rectify Errors, General Review of Important Events and Decisions from 1980 to 1991, and Stand for Socialism Against Modern Revisionism), as well as subsequent national and regional summings-up, have been the subject of deep study followed by summing-up, criticism and self-criticism, and definition of tasks.
Thanks to the rectification movement, the people and the revolutionary forces have won resounding victories in all forms of struggle, legal and illegal, non-armed and armed. The most significant of the victories are in further building the people’s army and waging the people’s war. The total number of Red fighters runs into the thousands, equivalent to several regiments or brigades. It has increased by 222% from 1980 to 2001 and by 53% from 1994 to 2001. The number of high-powered rifles also runs into thousands increasing by 197% from 1980 to 2001. The full-time Red fighters of the NPA are augmented by the militia units, acting as the local police force of the revolutionary movement and serving as the auxiliary and reserve force of the NPA.
The CPP membership has increased by 235% from 1980 to 2001 and by 129% from 1994 to 2001. It has developed the mass movement in both rural and urban areas. From the rural mass movement, the NPA has drawn its predominantly peasant Red fighters. From the urban mass movement, the NPA has attracted the workers and educated youth to serve in its ranks and the people in the countryside.
The NPA is now operating in 128 guerrilla fronts that cover 823 or more than half of the total Philippine towns and cities. These guerrilla fronts cover 8,500 barrios or almost 1/5 of the total number of barrios. Membership in mass organizations has increased by 71% from 1980 to 2001 and by 235% from 1994 to 2001. More data on the revolutionary movement’s consolidation and expansion may be found in the CPP Message on the 33rd anniversary of the New People’s Army, March 29, 2002.
JE: Is the reflected growth of the number of guerillas and fronts from 1997 to 2001 that the Philippine military estimated, an impact of the Rectification Movement or just a plain result of the deepening crisis of the status quo?
LJ: The growth of the number of NPA Red fighters and guerrilla fronts is the result of the Second Great Rectification Movement launched in 1992. The deepening crisis of the semifeudal and semicolonial system creates favorable conditions for the growth of the revolutionary movement, but the cause of the growth is the internal strength of the revolutionary movement. To appreciate well the significance of the rectification movement, one must consider the immense damage caused by the ideological, political and organizational errors. Sixty percent of the mass base had been lost by 1990. Through the rectification movement, the Party overcame major errors and shortcomings and prevented the destruction of the entire revolutionary movement. Since 1992, all sorts of anti-communists have claimed that the CPP was imploding due to the rectification movement and not due to the serious errors and crimes of the renegades. But they have been proven wrong by the outcome of the rectification movement.
JE: The NDF as a 33-year revolutionary movement, the oldest Marxist revolutionary movement in Asia, has its own system of governance and its authority operates in the guerilla fronts through a shadow government. With the greater number of the masses still under the control and dominance of the ruling system, how can the revolutionary movement make headway in making the masses comprehend the bloody purge that happened?
LJ: In nearly all places where “Kampanyang Ahos” occurred, the revolutionary movement has regained mass support because of the rectification movement. It took pains to explain to the masses what had happened, made its self-criticism, paid indemnification to the extent possible and gave certifications to the victims as comrades in good standing so as to remove the stigma of being suspected as enemy agents. The people recognize the real communists and real revolutionaries from the fake ones. By continuing to uphold and defend the people’s interests, the revolutionary movement through its concrete programs like land reform will be able to reach more and more of the masses and explain the causes of “Kampanyang Ahos” and counter the schemes of demonification by the anti-communists.
JE: Is the NDF ready to name individuals, still active in or expelled from the revolutionary movement, who were proven responsible of the bloody purge and individual crimes? And what were their respective responsibilities in the bloody purge and the punishments imposed on them?
LJ: To name the most notorious, Benjamin de Vera, Secretary of the CPP Mindanao Commission, member of the CPP Executive Committee and Political Bureau and Ricardo Reyes, Deputy Secretary of the CPP Mindanao Commission, Member of the CPP Political Bureau. They approved the catastrophic policies formulated by the other members of the CPP Mindanao Commission, which they constituted into the “Caretaker Committee” of the Mindanao Commission, while they left Mindanao to attend the 1985 Plenum of the CPP Central Committee. The aforementioned catastrophic policies prescribed “hard tactics,” meaning torture, in interrogating suspected enemy agents and extracting self-incriminating confessions. While the CPP Central Committee was meeting during its Plenum in 1985, de Vera and Reyes received reports on “Kampanyang Ahos,” but they kept it secret from the Central Committee. Nathan Quimpo and Frank Gonzales were key members of the so-called “Caretaker Committee” that formulated the policies that were inherently a violation of due process and the basic rights of the suspects.
JE: The NDF and the GRP have approved the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. However, until now there is no consensus on how to implement this agreement. In a scenario where the GRP and the NDF finally agree on the implementation of the rights agreement, is the NDF ready to submit to an independent body who will investigate on the bloody purges? How will the NDF handle a situation wherein the independent body declared that the crimes committed during the bloody purges were similar to the “crimes against humanity”, like genocide?
LJ: Both the NDFP and GRP refuse to fall under an “independent body”. As far as the NDFP is concerned, it is willing to receive complaints from any source and take due process on the meritorious complaints. The judicial and legal processes of the revolutionary movement will be carried out.
JE: In case the “bloody purge” is declared a “terrorist act” to lend credence to the U.S. government’s classification of NDF-CPP-NPA as a “terrorist group”, would this affect the NDF International Office in The Netherlands?
LJ: U.S. classifications are not always followed by European governments. The right to due process is more followed in Europe than in the U.S. The NPA was classified as “terrorist” by the U.S. in the early 1990s. But such classification had no adverse consequence to the NDFP International Office.
JE: Would this add to the existing pressure on the Dutch government to expel Joma Sison from the Netherlands? And how will NDF confront the damaging effect of such accusation?
LJ: The NDFP as well as Joma Sison have much experience in legally and politically combating campaigns of demonification. Bush is becoming more unpopular, because the U.S. engages in protectionism against European steel and grabs for itself all the oil sources and routes. The European countries are noticing that the U.S. is using the anti-terrorist slogan to take advantage of its own imperialist allies. They are becoming more critical of the unilateral actions of the United States. (*Published in Bulatlat.com, Volume 2, Number 14, May 12 – 18, 2002)